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What is the purpose of a field sobriety test?

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

One common way that Georgia residents have encounters with law enforcement officers is through traffic stops. Some traffic stops are based on allegations by officers that drivers are breaking traffic laws while operating their motor vehicles. Other traffic stops happen when police believe that drivers are intoxicated and putting themselves and others at risk.

When a law enforcement officer stops a person on suspicion of drunk driving, they must evaluate if there is a reason to arrest them. One way that officers seek evidence of drunk driving is through the use of breathalyzer testing. However, before they ask drivers to submit to breath analysis, they often ask their drunk driving suspects to perform field sobriety tests.

In Georgia, different field sobriety tests are used to assess drivers’ coordination, balance, concentration, and attention. Officers who administer such tests should be trained to interpret the results that they witness when the tests are performed, and should record their observations if they wish to later use them as evidence in drunk driving trials. If the results of a field sobriety test demonstrate that a driver is apparently intoxicated, a law enforcement officer may have probable cause to put that person under arrest.

While it may seem like field sobriety testing is a cut and dry process, there is a lot of subjectivity that can influence officers’ interpretations of testing and suspects’ understanding of what they are supposed to do. For example, when an officer asks a person who does not speak English fluently to perform a field sobriety test, that person may fail the assessment due to their language barriers and not their state of intoxication.

Physical injuries or illnesses, roadway conditions, and a host of other factors can impact the success that a drunk driving suspect has when they are asked to perform a field sobriety test. This post does not provide legal advice. Questions about this important drunk driving topic should be directed to criminal defense attorneys.